Row Over Romanian Visa Office In Chiswick Town Hall

Local councillor says situation 'intolerable' for residents


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A local councillor has claimed that using Chiswick Town Hall as a temporary facility for the Romanian Embassy to issue emergency travel documents to its citizens has led to 'intolerable conditions' for local residents.

Cllr Jo Biddolph said people living nearby had complained about the behaviour of some of those attending the temporary consular offices including littering , parking in private parking spaces, and an incident of graffiti.

A total of 400 parking tickets have been issued by wardens to cars parked illegally in Heathfield Terrace and Horticultural Place near the Town Hall, since June 1st, when the temporary consular offices were opened to issue the travel visas. One car was towed away. The Council said the Enforcement Office would continue to monitor the area and take action where appropriate against any vehicle observed parked in breach of regulations.

Cllr Biddolph said residents complained that private parking spaces were used and that crowds gathered with people sitting on steps leading up to private homes.

She accused Fusion, which manages the contract on behalf of Hounslow Council, of failing to keep order in queuing or in dealing with local concerns. However Fusion has said that senior management had attended the Town Hall following complaints of disorderly queueing inside the building and that a new queueing system had been put in place. Also, the company was not responsible for the car parking issues.

The Romanian Embassy has a contract for two offices in the Town Hall until the end of August. It has previously had similar arrangements in Kensington and Chelsea to cope with the annual seasonal increase in the issuing of emergency documents to allow citizens to travel to Romania in summer.

Cllr Biddolph has written to Hounslow Council demanding that action be taken and that the Town Hall not be used for this purpose again.

She says, "One resident in a house near the Town Hall has had repeated problems with people gathering outside, leaving litter including (repeatedly) soiled nappies, sitting on steps up to residents’ front doors, using private parking spaces and there has been an incident of graffiti on a private wall. I raised the issues, was told Fusion would act to remedy but the problems persist."

Cllr Biddolph continued, “I urge you not to extend the contract, if an extension is being sought, for Romanian citizens. It is having an intolerable effect on nearby residents. If other contracts are being considered, these should be offered to another building where Fusion is not the managing contractor."

Cllr Biddolph said she had now been told that there was no request to extend the current contract. "If that changes then I hope that the embassy will be asked to provide information to those coming here that explains how the system will work and asks them not to use private parking spaces, not to misuse public parking spaces, not to congregate outside and specifically not on private land or property, and not to leave litter (explaining that there are nappy changing facilities and litter/waste bins inside the town hall)."

The Romanian Embassy told us earlier this week that its Consular Department faces a significant increase in requests for Emergency Travel Documents -valid for 30 days - to enable the citizens with no valid ID or passport, to travel to Romania.

"Unfortunately, the office where the Consular Department is located, 344 Kensington High Street, W14 8NS, cannot accommodate a very large number of customers so, for the last 3 years, the Embassy of Romania rented some venues for processing the ETDs. In 2017, the Embassy hired  a venue from Kensington and Chelsea local Council in Worlds End Place and in 2018 in Brent Civic Centre.

"This year, the Embassy negotiated with Hounslow Local Council and Chiswick Town Hall for the rental of 2 offices in Chiswick Old Town Hall, situated next to Chiswick High Street, mainly because the venue is closer to the Consular Department.

"The Embassy of Romania highly appreciates the good cooperation it has with the local councils to the benefit of the Romanian community living in the area but for the others as well.

"With the support of the Chiswick Old Town Hall’s team, our colleagues managed to process all the requests coming for the Romanian citizens in a very professional manner and without significant incidents. The Embassy’s office in Chiswick Old Town Hall will close by the end of August."

We have emailed and called the Embassy to inform them of the recent complaints and have not yet had a comment.

August 11, 2019

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